Berlin

In 1988, I was 19 years old.  I was a US Army Infantryman.  I had just finished my first tour with the Bco 2/237 (No Slack) infantry regiment at the 101st Airborne division.  I was both Airborne and Air Assault qualified and had been predominantly an assistant M-60 gunner.  (this basically means that I carried all the heavy stuff of the M-6o machine gun but not the actual “hawg/pig” itself and I never got a chance to shoot it.  This was the “rookie” job for any private in a weapons squad).  I has just landed in Frankfort as I was being reassigned to the Berlin Brigade.  A military official met me there and told me that  I needed to board “the duty train.”  This was one of the only sanctioned way for US forces to travel some 80 miles behind East German/Soviet lines into Berlin.  Its was like going back in time.  A surreal post World War II world where Russian and US forces stood toe to toe, locked and loaded, guarding the same wall.  It was also the center of all the espionage activities of the time.  This was the Cod War and private Jon was stuck right on the front lines.  My world began to immediately shrank.  I could speak neither German nor Russian, I could read absolutely no signs, or and other information that might assist a foreigner in a strange land.   A Russian soldier walked the the car  with an AK-47 in hand.  This was the enemy.  I was trained to kill him, and I figured, that he was probably trained to kill me.  The Cold Wars seemed to be heating up to me.  The Russians were professional and disciplined soldiers.  So was I.  Thirteen weeks at Fort Benning’s Harmon Church completed that work in me.  I was 17 years old when I met my first drill sergeant and turned 18 while I was there.  Here I was, some 15 months later, facing the enemy and was grateful for the rigorous training.   I was as ready as I would ever be, but still scared.  That’s just part of being in Berlin in those days and I talk more about this in a minute.  I was relieved to arrive in West Berlin.

In my orientation process, I was sent on a tour of East Berlin.  I was required to wear my Class B uniform.  We boarded a bus, drove through Checkpoint Charlie and into a completely different world.  There was absolutely no color.  All was gray.  All the cars were exactly the same and all the clothes that people were wearing were all the same also.  I had read George Orwell’s 1985 in high school and felt like I had walked right into that book.  It was surreal.

The Berlin Brigade trained for inner city fighting.  The thinking was that any fighting that we would do would be in the city of Berlin.  Hence, there was a “mock city” set up for training which was affectionately called “dough boy city” though I am not sure as to why.  Additionally, to this day, I have no idea why the area in which we trained ran right along the side of the Wall.  The logic of this escaped me because the Russians observed/filmed our training exercises.  One day as we were setting up, I heard a low rumble that sounded like thunder.  When I looked up to see what it was, it was a Russian Hind-E helicopter hovering along the wall and filming us.  It was the largest aircraft I had ever seen.  It was bigger than the home that I grew up in back in Ohio.  In my orientation process, they tell you, be professional when you encounter the Russians at the wall.  Don’t point your weapons, make any derogatory gestures or otherwise provoke an international incident.  When I saw the size of that helicopter, this was a “no-brainier” to me.  However, the guys in my platoon, 3rd platoon B co 4/502 starting yelling obscenities, flipping them the bird, and one guy even mooned them.  I thought, “Oh shit, were dead.”  My supped up 22 M-16 rifle would be no match for that war machine.  fortunately, they did not feed into our negativity and they flew off.  Then it occurred to me.  If we ever had a conflict we were going to get “creamed.”  We were 80 miles behind enemy lines, we were outnumbered and hopelessly outgunned.  We were all going to die.  This was daily life on the front of the Cold War.  It was psychological and for some, even traumatic. A life of constant fear.  It bothered me but I also knew there wasn’t a thing that I could do about it.  Just drive on.  I think it was this mindset that led the guys in my platoon to react the way they did to that Hinde-E.  A kind of last act of defiance.

A few months into my time there, I began to notice that the Russian soldiers became increasingly less professional.  They wanted to talk across checkpoints, they didn’t carry their weapons, they wanted to trade Vodka for Marlboro’s, and exchange regimental lapel pins.  Eventually, they would drink and smoke at their post.  This gave me some peace of mind because I thought we might have a chance to kill all these drunk guys if it came down to it.  Shortly thereafter, the Russians left and East German guards replaced them..  They were even less professional than their Russian counterparts.  I was to young and naive to see the writing on the wall but I was glad to see the Red War Machine was beginning to crack.  This gave me some hope.  We saw no more Hind E helicopters, guard towers were left unmanned, and the un-professionalism of the East German soldiers continued.  Then, President H.W. Bush was coming.  This is never good news for an E-3 private first class.  Why?  This would mean that it would be my job to clean and make shiny every damn thing around because Big Brass always accompanied the President.  We would have to do a damn parade.  Don’t get me wrong, the actually parade itself is an awesomely patriotic event, especially in that milieu.  It’s the 75,000 rehearsals that we would have to do to make all things “Dress Right Dresws.”  The President came and went.  Things then returned back to normal or at least, what was normal for me We were going to the field.

We were going back to dough-boy city.  I wasn’t looking forward to it because it was going to be cold.  East European cold is a completely different level of cold and the concrete of dough boy city didn’t make anything all the more cheery.  It was Novenber the 9th 1989.  I was beginning to unload our gear when the First Sergeant said, “Pack it in boys were going in, the wall has come down.”  I thought he was joking.  I kept unloading all the stuff then my squad leader said, “Ricketts load all that up we are leaving.”  I still didn’t believe that the wall came down until we had arrived back at McNair barracks and guys from other companies were telling me the news.  We had to get down town.

US forces were permitted to use the subway for free in Berlin if we had our military ID with us.  So, my roommate and I started the journey to the Kufurstendam, Berlin central street.  I had been there hundreds of times but this time, I  couldn’t believe what I saw.  There were so many people.  Thousands of them walking up and down the middle of the street.  Absolutely no cars just waves and waves of people.  All cheering, dancing, drinking, celebrating, and overall having the biggest party that I’ve ever been too.  It was an incredible night of fellowship between Germans, Americans, English, French, and East Germans.  We made our way down to Checkpoint Charlie and met Peter Jennings down there.  He shook our hands and thanked us for our service.  The people of the East were coming through the checkpoint to cheers and free drinks.  It was like V-day.  It was a type of V-day.  It was the end of the Cold War.  I consider it one of the highest honors of my Army career to have been a part of it.  Shortly thereafter, I rotated back to the 101st and eventually got out and went to college.  However, I look back on those days of my soldierly youth with fondness and pride.  I was glad to have been there and proud to have served there.

Controversy and Counter Terrorism: Random Acts of Violence versus Random Acts of Love

Today, I read all the comments my wife has received regarding her Holocaust 2015 post.  Some folks agree and some folks disagree.  I wondered, why all this controversy.  I asked God to give me some clarification behind what was happening here.  I suppose that I was under the impression that if God was leading someone to do something that there would be some universal agreement on the matter.  I know there might be a few dissenters but, by in large, I expected that since God was leading us in this direction, we would have acceptance from folks in general.   What I found while reading all the comments was that there was controversy.  About a 50/50 division.  Some folks agree and some folks disagree.  What God showed me was this:  It was about Jesus and His acceptance by God’s people.  “And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people.” (John 7:12).  God’s plan from the beginning was to send the Messiah and yet, when he arrived, controversy arose among God’s people.  I don’t think it is any different with this recent refugee crisis either.  For me, to fear Muslims is just a mistake.  To shun them out of fear is an un-biblical mistake.  Paul writes, ” Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.h Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave iti to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-21).

It also occurred to me that the way to counter terrorism may not be with violence.  Perhaps violence only perpetuates violence.  Terrorism is the widespread use of fear.  A random act of violence and hatred.  Perhaps the answer for countering terrorism lies in this passage of Romans.  Perhaps we should be countering random acts of violence with random acts of love.   “Kill em all and let God sort them out” is not in the bible and doesn’t seem to be working so far.  Perhaps random acts of love and kindness is what the refugees need.  This would deflate the entire radical fundamental ISIS narrative.  We can be a loving and serving people as well as a people capable of defending ourselves.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be prudent in protecting ourselves and defending ourselves against out spoken enemies.  But what I am saying is that the biblical mandate that I quoted from Romans needs to be implemented on a much greater level.  Rina did this the other day with a Muslim family she saw at Goodwill.  “They” did not respond with knives to cut off her head.  “They” did not detonate a suicide vest.  “They” were very grateful and appreciative.  “They” may not listen to the radical banter they will hear because someone, a complete stranger, loved them and welcomed them and didn’t even know them.  That, my friends, is Biblical Christianity.  That is power.  That is the way to necessitate change.  Let all of us do some random act of kindness for a refugee this week or an Islamic family in your area.  Thank you Rina for showing us the way.

November 22, 1963 1PM CST: The Shots, The Shooter, and the Magic Bullet Theory

November 22 1963 at 1 PM CST was 52 years ago this Sunday. It makes a half of a century since John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. Since I’m feeling especially tired today, I decided this would be a good topic of study for me and my 13 year home schooled daughter . I’ve always been troubled by the Warren Commission report which I found in my Grandmother’s house and read a few years back. Since we were discussing it today, I thought I would put my thoughts to blog post and present some of the tremendous problems with this investigation. I don’t have any answers to these questions but they should be explored by someone smarter and with greater resources than me. If you read this and know the answers to these questions, please point me in the right direction. If I see these problems, others have as well. Nevertheless, here are a few problems that I see dealing with the shots, the shooter, and the magic bullet theory.

The Shots

The Warren Report tells us that Oswald fired three shots from the book depository. The first missed and struck the overpass down the road from the motorcade and sent concrete splinters into the face of James Tague. The second shot is the magic bullet theory that we will talk about here in a minute. The third is reported to be the fatal head shot. The problem with this? Anyone who has ever tried to fire successive rounds at a target will tell you that the first shot will always be the most accurate.  The shooter can take their time with it and you also have the element of surprise. In the scenario by the Warren Report, Oswald last shot was the most accurate, this just doesn’t seem tenable to me. Not because I’m some hot-shot investigator but because I shoot guns. Additionally because I hunt, I’ve seen bullet wounds that kill and the ballistics of the fatal head shot don’t make sense to me. That shot couldn’t have come from the book depository.

“Back and to the left” was the refrain in the popular Oliver Stone movie JFK. True, Kennedy’s head does move back and to the left on frame 313 of the Zapruder film. In the move, Kevin Costner playing New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison speculates that this “back and to the left” is evidence that there were additional shooters “behind the grassy knoll.” However, the ballistics of the shot doesn’t fit this. This tragic scene of blood, brain, and skull splattering is not the result of an entry wound which would have come from the grassy knoll. This devastating blast is an exit wound. The exit wound is always substantially larger than the entry wound. At the site of the assassination the grassy knoll is to the right and front of the President. The book depository is to the back and right of the President. Remember that this is an exit wound. This indicates that this shot must have come from the back and to the left of the President somewhere along Elm Street. This makes sense because at this location the President would be in a triangulated crossfire. A team on Elm Street, a team in the book depository, and a team on the grassy knoll would suggest a military style ambush with triangulated crossfire. This is what that fatal head shot can tell us. (This will also match the testimony of Johnny Roselli years later).

The Shooter

According to the Warren Report, Oswald fired three shots from an Italian made Carcano bolt action rifle in six seconds. Allowing that it would take around 1.5 seconds to recycle the bolt, which he would’ve had to do twice in six seconds, this only leaves Oswald three seconds to fire the magic bullet and the fatal head shot. Again, this would be a challenge for an experienced shooter with a stationary target let alone one that is moving and is the President of the United States. Some argue that Oswald had training as a marine and therefore, could make the shot. While the corps marksmanship programs are exemplary, Oswald just wasn’t all that good. According to his marine corps records, he barely qualified. Now, if he was a marine corps sniper it would tenable to believe in his shooting ability to make this shot. However, he was in intelligence and probably only saw the range once a year. The weapon itself would have caused Oswald some problems.

Oswald purchased the rifle through the mail using the alias A. Hidell. That means that it came, out of the box with the scope already mounted. This is problematic. One does not take a rifle out of he box and become a sniper. The scope needs to be bore-sighted then it needs to be zeroed and then the shooter must become consistent with his fundamentals to make consistent speedy accurate shots. There is no evidence that Oswald took this rifle to any range anywhere or was even comfortable shooting the thing. To make the kind of shots required here, the shooter would need to be very comfortable and confident with his weapon. Not one that he just got out of the mailbox. No way. This just doesn’t seem possible. Not because I’m some hot-shot investigator but because I spent three hours and about forty rounds trying to help my brother zero his 30.06 with a sniper scope mounted on it “right out of the box.” Scope rings have to be tightened, the weapon needs to be bore-sighted, the scope has to be zeroed, and then the shooter has to become comfortable and use good marksmanship fundamentals. This is on a stationary target. The Presidential limousine was moving 10-15 MPH when these shots were taken. No way could Oswald do this without hours of practice and hundreds of rounds.

The Magic Bullet Theory

Put forth by a young lawyer with political aspirations, Arlen Spector was an investigator on the Warren Commission and the author of this nonsense. The problem with the lone gunman theory is that the three shots do not account for all the wounds that were inflicted upon the victims. Again, one is the fatal head shot. Two, bounces off the overpass and the third must account for three wounds on Governor Connolly and at least one maybe two on the President.(we may never know because the autopsy was botched) The theory goes like this. The bullet enters the Presidents neck and exits under his Adam’s apple at a 45 degree angle. It stops in mid-air and moves upward and to the right entering Governor Connolly back and exiting under his right nipple. It then turns right, enters Connolly right wrist shattering his radius. Then moves downward and enters Connolly right thigh. At Parkland hospital, it spontaneously falls out onto Connolly’s hospital stretcher in pristine condition. Now, anyone in Kentucky who has fired a gun more than twice in their life will tell you that no bullet in the history of gunfire has ever behaved in this manner. Yet, this was the theory that they put forth as the actual happening. It’s problematic at best and an outright lie at worst.

Conclusion

It’s difficult to understand how this was all just kinda swept away but it was and much still remains secret to this day.  There is a scheduled release of some new information in 2017 but, this information was supposed to be released a few years back but was postponed due to “national security.”  What could that information possibly contain that would threaten national security today?  Who knows, but this cover story of the Warren Report could’ve been written much better with just some good old redneck common sense rather than Harvard lawyers.  I’ll probably continue my sideline writings about this subject as it strikes me.  As I said earlier, if anyone has any answers or see where I’m wrong, please let me know for my own edification.

Build Walls, Guard them, Eliminate any threat from the Orphans and the Widows

     The world is a nasty place.  I know.  I’m a psychiatric nurse which means I make a living helping the victims and the perpetrators of the world’s evil.  Having been doing this for 11 years, I’m in favor of capital punishment for a variety of different crimes because I’ve seen there effect on the victims and their families.  I’m also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and have been involved in some shady stuff myself.  Even though I’ve been clean for 15 years, the world seems to have gotten progressively worse.  I’ve always believed that my wife and I must be right 100 percent of the time to protect our kids from some kind of evil and the perpetrator of that evil only has to be right one time.  I do all in my power to protect my kids.  We live in the woods.  We have a German Shepherd.  We lock our doors.  I have guns.  While there is some prudence in all of this, the baseline of it all is Fear.  Mainly, that God has bestowed upon me the commission to raise, educate, and protect these children and if I fail, they will suffer for it.  My strategy for this is not prayer, fasting, and walking by the Spirit.  My strategy is to build walls, guard them, and eliminate any possible threat.  Does this strategy sound familiar.  If you’ve been following the Syrian refugee crisis recently, it should.

     Monday night, I came home from work to find my wife sobbing (I’m talking tears, snot, shaking, moaning, and many other expletives I could use to describe her distraught emotional condition).  What wrong?  She believed that God had showed her something about her inadequate response to the Syrian refugee crisis.  She had just finished writing the Holocaust 2015 article that many of you have read.  She wanted me to read it.  I did.  My response?

“Your not seriously thinking about bringing someone into this house or into our country that might pose a threat to our family or someone else’s are you?”

“If that’s what God tells me to do, yes.  How can we do anything different?”  She asked.

“No we will not!”  I answered  “This is not our problem to fix.  The tyranny of evil men has created this issue and Muslim countries don’t seem to be taking these people in, so why should I be responsible for the fallout of their evil and help a people that we all know cannot be trusted?”  I was really angry and we stopped talking about it and I went to bed.  Now, God and I have a very personal relationship and I don’t mind telling Him like I see it: “This is bullshit God, what the hell are you telling her this crap for?  Those damn people cannot be trusted.  How is this my problem to fix?”  His response?  Silence!  I was pissed.  “No way, will I ever bring a Muslim into this house, not now not ever!  I will protect my family no matter what.”  God and Rina just weren’t seeing the big picture.  Let me explain the bigger picture to you as I saw it.

     I’m not afraid to die for God.  I’m not volunteering for it, but, If I had to, I think that I could/would do it.  I think it would suck, but I’m pretty sure I would do it.  I have a martyr/narcissistic/ hero complex anyway  so if I thought I could be remembered as a hero of the faith for all times and I’m going to die eventually someday, well, sign me up.  I do, however, have a fear of surviving.  Specifically, surviving after my children.  If anything ever happened to them, I would be constantly second guessing myself and living with the fact that I failed to protect them.  This would haunt me all the days of my life.  It can’t happen.  I must do all that I can to protect them.  Build walls, guard them, and eliminate any threat.  Rina and God need to understand this.  So I decided:

I will convince them from the scriptures.

     I began to make a mental note of all the biblical references of war and times when woman and children suffered terrible deaths.  A people “under the ban” experienced wars that were ugly, messy, and nasty.  The Biblical narrative describes how many of them died heinous deaths.  “See God and Rina, we should do nothing about this problem because it happened in the bible.”  Yep, there is my “out”.  In reality, I knew that it was wrong.  It was completely out of context but it was license for me to continue to live in fear and it justified my strategy. Build walls, guard them, and eliminate any threat.  But God, who was silent at my recent venting, still had something powerful to say.  Who did he say it through?  The last person I would ever have expected: President Barak Obama.  The next day on my way to work, I heard the President on the radio say, “We are not well served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic.  We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.  Apparently they are scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America.”  

     That statement rocked me.  Here was “this guy” using biblical language to tell me what the Godly thing to do was.  I’m not an Obama fan.  I am a Republican.  I’m a conservative right leaning evangelical.  I spent most of my day setting a trap line today because I live in the heartland of Kentucky and its that season.  I have chickens, milk goats, and a family cow.  I have guns because I believe that it is better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.  I also believe that it is my God-given second amendment right to have as many guns as I damn well please.  I spend my spare time lifting weights.  I’m an Army infantry veteran.  I served two tours with the 101st Airborne Division and two tours with the Berlin Brigade. I have voted straight Republican in every election since H.W. Bush first term.  Here was “this guy” telling me the biblical thing to do.  I had completely missed it but he hadn’t.  What the President said here, like him or not, is a word of truth.  If God can speak a word of truth through Balaam’s donkey then He can also speak a word of truth through this President.  No offense, Mr. President.  How had I missed it, before?  Fear.

     I can’t serve my fear any longer.  I’ve written about this recently in my post “Fear and Expectations.”  Just as I can’t serve my fears, God certainly won’t serve them.  In the end, I’m left with a choice.  Trust God or trust myself.  To be honest, trusting myself has worked out pretty good so far but I know that that is only a delusion.  I don’t know how many times God has protected us without my knowledge.  My strategy is a pipe-dream.  It only serves to fuel the fears because if I fail while implementing it, I prove my own inadequacy.  It is better to let God be and do all that He said he would be and do.  It’s just wrong for me to continue on with my current strategy.   I trust God.  I trust Him to protect me and my family.  However, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego told Nebuchadnezzar, “”But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  They were then thrown into the fiery furnace only to be saved by God.  We will not bend the knee to fear any longer.  Come what may. 

 

The Turtle

Can the kids have a turtle?  Such a simple request

With all the animals we have?  Surely you jest!

It just a turtle, I mean, how hard could it be

It’s not like you have to take it out to go pee.

Oh, the kids will love it, it will be such a hit

Ok. As long as I don’t have to take care of it.

Jon, this turtle maybe a little more than I thought!

But, it will all be free, not one thing to be bought

The tank is rather large, and is has a few rocks

But they should all fit neatly into one little box

Oh no, they think they should drive out here, its so far

Because they say all this gear might not fit in our car!

They”ll meet you after work, can you help set it up?

It has, the tank, rocks,a bridge, a heat lamp and two pumps.

They sent us a picture, no worries at all

Kids are diggin’ the turtle and havin” a ball.

Put in the rocks, then two buckets of water.  “i’ll put the green stuff in”

Turtle out of the box, “Does he know how to swim?

He’s sitting on the bridge with his head poking out

Is he ok?  He’ll be fine no doubt

Installation complete, that was kind of a chore

That tank was so big it almost didn’t fit through the door

But, it’s for the kids and the turtle really is cool

Now I know why we got all this for free, the Kennedy’s were no fools

Check Your Ego At the Door

Humility has never been my strong suit.  By all appearances I seem to be put together and confident.  I’m really not.  Oftentimes my appearance of confidence is just overcompensation for my own fear and insecurities.  I have so many that I’m barely aware of them most of the time.  I’ve overcompensated for so many years that is just “what I do.”  Slowly, God has been working with me on this stuff.  Because He loves me and there is simply a better way to live than giving off appearances and hiding insecurities.

I really like lifting weights.  Partly because of what I previously stated, partly because of what I do for a living (oftentimes I deal with violent patients who require hands on restraints) partly because I like to exercise, and partly because it is a coping skill and I feel close to God when the Spirit within me sets a new PR (personal record).  However, about three weeks ago I had to deal with new insecurity.

I’m not as young as I used to be.  Nevertheless, about three months ago I set a goal of benching 305 pounds.  I accomplished this goal for the fist time in my life but it wreaked havoc on my left rotator cuff in my shoulder.  When discussing this with a friend, he told me that my form may be off (flaring my elbow to much to recruit the shoulder muscle) or that I was just using too much weight.  “Couldn’t be either one of those because then I would have to change something.  I would neither be able to repeat nor improve upon this PR.”  I said back to him.  To which he replied, “Your going to hurt yourself.  Check your ego at the door of the weight room, drop the weight and work on your form.”  He told me.  “Sh_____!”  I knew he was right and I knew that God was telling me this through him.  So that’s what I did.  I also remember telling my wife that I would change my workout routine once I hit this PR as she is not a fan of large bulky muscle.  She married the right guy.  So, checking my ego, I dropped thirty pounds of my one rep max and began doing a 5-3-1 workout that a friend had given me based on Jim Wendler’s boring but big program.  And, I feel great.  My shoulder isn’t keeping up all night, I’m not eating Ibuprofen everyday and, believe it or not, by adding reps to this workout I’m actually in better shape.  Yes previously, I could waddle over to the bench and press 300 one time, but after that, I was done and running for medicine cabinet to take the maximum amount of NSAIDS to kill the pain.  This is not healthy but man, did it ever fuel my ego.  I’m beginning to realize that my ego may lead me to do some things that are destructive but really make me feel good about myself.  This is my deception.  Hurting yourself to fuel your ego is not wisdom, it the final result of fear and insecurity having its impact in my life.  I’m grateful to God for my friend and for His patience and Love for me.

Faith versus Works

In reading the Orthodox study bible, I came across the commentary on Romans 5.  It states, “In Western Europe during the sixteenth century and before, justifiable concern arose among the Reformers over a prevailing understanding that salvation depended on human works of merit, and not on the grace and mercy of God.  Their rediscovery of Romans 5 lead to the slogan sola fides:  justification by faith alone.  This Reformation debate in the West raised the questions for the Orthodox East:  Why this new polarization of faith and works?  It had been settled since the apostolic era that salvation was granted by the mercy of God to righteous men and woman.  Those baptized into Christ were called to believe in Him and do good works.  An opposition of faith versus works was unprecedented in Orthodox thought…..Rather than justification as a legal acquittal before God, Orthodox believers see justification by faith as a covenant relationship with Him centered in union with Christ.”  And, if I may springboard of that, works will then automatically follow.  It must.  Works are the natural outgoing of a covenental relationship with God that is based on love, faith, and hope.  God’s role in that is justification of our sin and our role in that is to believe it because we didn’t earn it.  Works comes when these two points connect in covenant.  I think this is James’ point (James 2:18).  This also seems to reflect first century Jewish/Christian thought on the covenental relationship between God and His people.